In Praise of Antiheroes: Figures and Themes in Modern European Literature 1930-1980

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Through critical readings of key works of modern European literature, Victor Brombert shows how a new kind of hero - the antihero - has arisen to replace the toppled heroic model. Though they fail, by design, to live up to conventional expectations of mythic heroes, antiheroes are not necessarily failures. They display different kinds of courage more in tune with our time and our needs: deficiency translated into strength, failure experienced as honesty, dignity achieved through humiliation. Brombert explores these paradoxes in the works of Buchner, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Svevo, Hasek, Frisch, Camus, and Levi. Coming from diverse cultural and linguistic traditions, these writers all use the figure of the antihero to question handed-down assumptions, to re-examine moral categories, and to raise issues of survival and renewal embodying the spirit of an uneasy age.